5th Extraordinary International Hydrographic Conference (EIHC-5)

5th Extraordinary International Hydrographic Conference (EIHC-5)
6 to 10 October 2014, Monaco 
Opening speech by Koji Sekimizu, 
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization  

President of the Conference, excellencies, President of IHO, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is really a great pleasure to be with you here today at this fifth Extraordinary International Hydrographic Conference. Our Organizations, IMO and IHO, share a great deal in common, from our shared pursuit of safer seas and more reliable navigation, to the protection of the marine environment and sustainable maritime transportation.

It is no surprise, therefore, that we also share a long history of cooperation and working together. Indeed, the formal cooperation arrangement between IMO and IHO goes back to 1963 when the then Assembly of IMCO, as IMO was then called, at its third session, adopted a resolution on relations with the International Hydrographic Bureau.

In view of this long-standing relationship, it gave me great satisfaction to sign, in December of last year – 2013 – an Agreement of Cooperation between our two Organizations which both reconfirm our strong bonds of the past and provides a clear framework for future cooperation.

The IMO Assembly, at its 28th session, endorsed my recommendation that IMO Members that are not yet members of IHO should consider joining it, given that its objectives with regard to the safety of navigation and protection of the marine environment are so closely related to those of IMO – and I hope that many will do so and do so, soon.

Ladies and gentlemen, in view of the common interests we share in so many areas of work, many of which you will doubtlessly touch upon during the course of this Conference this week, I should like to say just a few words about some of the most important issues.

In July of this year, the inaugural meeting of the new IMO Sub Committee on Navigation, Communication, Search and Rescue (NCSR) endorsed a draft MSC circular on ECDIS - Guidance for good practice. After consideration of some of its technical provisions at other sub-committees, it will be forwarded to the Maritime Safety Committee for approval. This good practice guidance incorporates and updates previously issued circulars relating to ECDIS, including advice on addressing operating anomalies, maintenance and training. It will, I am sure, be very well received by the shipping industry and by manufacturers of marine electronics.


Capacity building is a vital component of the efforts of both IMO and IHO to support our common objectives. I note that, like IMO, your organization IHO also maintains Country Profiles which assist in the assessment and analysis of countries’ needs. It is becoming increasingly important to focus on the genuine needs for beneficiaries. Without this, it is difficult to deliver capacity building activities with maximum effect.

The idea of the Country Maritime Profiles for identifying technical cooperation needs was launched in 2012, shortly after I took up my new responsibility as Secretary-General. If you look at the history of IMO, technical cooperation has been a very important aspect. Traditionally the Secretariat assessed how to best provide technical cooperation. In order to ensure that the limited resources are prioritized and allocated according to the actual needs of developing countries, I thought it would be  necessary for the developing countries to assess and identify their own technical cooperation needs  – so that was why I proposed that every developing country should have a Country Maritime Profile. And, when the IMO Secretariat is considering which important issues to address, we are able to appropriately distribute our resources. In addition, all nations must establish its own national maritime transportation policy taking into account the future of individual countries. Without a national policy you cannot fill in the technical cooperation country maritime profile template, so a national maritime transportation policy is very important and I decided to increase the resources in the IMO Secretariat in order to handle this very important issue.
For the identification of technical cooperation and capacity building needs, in particular the fields of coastal States and port State responsibility, in my view, hydrographic survey and electronic navigational charts  are some of the most urgent and important issues. ECDIS has been mandated and the availability of electronic navigational charts is crucial to ensure safety for the future.
The hydrographic survey and development of electronic navigational charts is a major field of capacity building and technical cooperation which entail resource requirements. If I look back again at the history of IMO for technical cooperation, we have allocated limited resources from the Technical Cooperation Fund for this field. Clearly the resources allocated have not been sufficient and you may also recall that IMO has generated the idea of the marine electronic highway – particularly in the straits of Malacca and Singapore. I personally put a lot of effort into this, and was able to ensure and funding from the Global Environment Facility and we managed to implement the demonstration project of the Marine Electronic Highway. That was a good example. But in my view, I think we need to generate interest from the wider community – we, IHO and IMO, should refresh our joint efforts by approaching development agencies of United Nations, aid agencies of IMO/IHO Member states, and donor communities and philanthropic organizations. I would like to discuss this issue with the President, Robert Ward, exploring what we can do in the future and establish a joint strategy.

Development of hydrographic surveying and nautical charting capability is of fundamental importance and we, the two Organizations, have been delivering joint capacity-building activities over many years. Indeed I am pleased to note that a joint two-week regional training course for African Member States is being delivered in Maputo, Mozambique at this very moment. This is an excellent example of the work our two Organizations undertake together and which, I know, is very well appreciated by the recipient countries. I firmly believe that helping states achieve the capacity required to participate effectively in maritime activities makes an important contribution towards the sustainable maritime transportation system that we are all striving to realise.


Changing the subject to the polar regions; the polar regions are becoming an increasing focus of hydrographic attention due to the intensified activity in these areas from shipping, tourism as well as other activities such as energy exploration and extraction. IMO is close to finalising its Polar Code, which will be a mandatory international code for ships operating in polar waters. The IHO has contributed to the safety considerations contained within the Polar Code, related specifically to the generally unsatisfactory state of the underlying hydrographic surveys from which existing nautical charts in the polar regions are derived.

Statistics show a lack of adequate hydrographic surveys in nearly 95 per cent of the polar regions. This has obvious implications, not only for the safe operation of an increasing number of ships, but also for the continued protection of the environment and for the sustainable management of the polar regions in general. All activities in the maritime domain rely, in some way or another, on a knowledge of the depth of the sea and the nature of any hazards or obstacles that lie on the sea floor. In the case of the polar regions, much of this information simply does not exist. I know that this is a major concern and one that is shared by IHO; and I feel confident I can speak for both our Organizations when I say that we would encourage our Member States to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

Having said that, in August 2013, upon the kind invitation and excellent arrangements made by the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, I navigated through the Arctic Ocean on board a Russian Nuclear Icebreaker. The length of the trip was spanning 1700 miles, and the voyage took 5 days. The reason for that mission, as Secretary-General of IMO, was to observe the Arctic Ocean and waters, recognize the state of melting ice, observe the efforts of the Russian Federation Government, experience polar navigation first hand, understand challenges of the future, in particular in what we call the Northern Sea Route and to highlight the importance of the activities of IMO trying to establish the Polar Code.
I was really impressed and astonished that over 1700 miles, 90% of the waterway was completely free of ice. Only 10% of the navigation route was covered by first year ice. First year ice on the surface is not thin, but the important point I took away was that 90% of the 1700 miles voyage was ice-free. There were no strong winds, no waves, therefore no pitching and rolling. If navigational charts are made available, navigation through the Arctic Ocean in the Northern Sea Route, in particular, is realistic – especially during the Summer time.
The Polar Code which we are aiming to adopt at the end of this year or, by the beginning of next year, will ensure that an international regulation and legal framework is established. But, adopting an international regulation is one thing - our challenge continues with implementing the regulations under the new framework. Implementation is the key and in that context, for example, search and rescue centres must be established, weather and other safety information should be provided and communication bases should be improved. Hydrographic surveys and electronic navigational chart development is, in my view, the biggest challenge and in that context I was delighted by the efforts made by the Government of the Russian Federation. I understand they have comprehensive plans for hydrographic surveys and I actually encountered one of the Russian hydrographic survey vessels operating there. I was really encouraged. I have just taken an example for the Arctic Ocean but the same applies for the Antarctic so we have big areas to handle in the coming years.


I mentioned a few moments ago the new IMO Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communication, Search and Rescue (NCSR); this is one of several new sub committees created within the restructuring process that I initiated shortly after becoming Secretary-General. This restructuring is part of a broad review and reform process designed to ensure IMO is properly able to meet current and future challenges as a forward looking, efficient and cost-conscious Organization. And I hope it will offer all participants in IMO’s work, including our valued partner organizations such as IHO and IALA, a more effective mechanism through which to channel their contributions.

As its name suggests, NCSR will take over much of the work previously undertaken by the NAV and COMSAR Sub-Committees. As such, the input from IHO is likely to be the primary focus for the Sub-Committee – although, having said that, I should stress that IHO’s views on any relevant matter, regardless of which body or subsidiary body may be discussing it, are always welcomed.

NCSR has, for example, taken on NAV’s former role as the body with responsibility for the initial approval of ship routeing and mandatory ship reporting systems. NCSR 1 approved ten new or amended ships' routeing measures and one amended ship reporting system, for submission to the Maritime Safety Committee for adoption.

Such systems are a tangible reflection of the fine balance that needs to be maintained between environmental protection and safe navigation. I have asked IMO Member Governments to consider reviewing existing routeing or reporting systems, particularly those that have been in place for a number of years.


E-navigation is another topic that will be a major element of the new Sub Committee’s work in the immediate future. Again, carrying on the work of NAV, the first session of NCSR finalised the draft e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP), which includes recommended tasks to progress the implementation of e navigation, for submission to the MSC for approval. 

The e-navigation concept aims to integrate existing and new navigational tools, in particular electronic tools, in an all-embracing system that will contribute to enhanced navigational safety while simultaneously reducing the burden on the navigator. The objective is to facilitate a holistic approach to the interaction between shipboard and shore-based users, under an over-arching e-navigation architecture. 

This area has been under consideration by IMO for some eight years now, and I have no doubt that IMO Member States and the shipping industry are keen to see some real, tangible results of this lengthy deliberation.


Ladies and gentlemen, I think the 21st century is the century of the ocean. I openly welcomed the report of the Global Ocean Commission lead by Mr. Jose Maria Figueres. I have invited him to address IMO and our community during MEPC in London next Monday.
The report of the Global Ocean Commission provides a number of very important issues for our consideration. They touch upon drivers of decline, decline of the ocean and drivers of recovery, recovery of the ocean. Within the context of drivers of decline, issues like rising demand for resources, technological advances, decline of fishing stocks, climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss and weak high sea governance are discussed.
Under drivers of recovery, the report indicated, with hope, that the United Nations Sustainable development goals under development address stronger high sea governance and no more overfishing, combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, proper control of offshore oil and gas activities and global ocean accountability mechanism. I appreciated that.
They called for consideration of a new United Nations body for oceans, which I have serious concerns about. My consideration is that rather than creating a new mechanism, we already have relevant United Nations bodies – for example: IMO, FAO, UNESCO, and UNEP. We have our United Nations Organizations system but we have to recognise that there might be some gap areas between the Organization's mandates. My approach is that we should strengthen cooperation among the existing UN agencies dealing with the Ocean and I am now considering to invite all UN Ocean related agencies to come and consider this matter next year. I am also proposing to hold another session of the FAO/IMO Joint Working Group dealing with IUU Fishing at IMO HQ next year.
Next year's IMO theme for World Maritime day is "Maritime education and training" and we want to strengthen the financial basis of, for example, the World Maritime University. You may be aware that WMU is now moving into a new campus opening in May next year. We have many other important issues under the context of maritime education and training. In that context I would like to further seek collaboration between IMO and IHO in the field of "Maritime education and training" and in the field of ocean-related issues in an effort to support the activities of the United Nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for Oceans.


Ladies and gentlemen, IHO clearly has a significant role to play in meeting our challenges and achieving the objectives that we have set ourselves at IMO and the Rio+20 Conference in 2012. Based on our long history of collaboration and cooperation, I am confident that IHO will continue to have a strong voice within IMO, and I thank you in advance for that continuing contribution to activities to IMO within the United Nations System.

I also wish you every success in your own forthcoming proceedings, and thank you once again for the opportunity to participate in this Conference today.

Thank you.